Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Lenten penances

Ever since I entered the seminary, I've been used to the yearly assembly called for just some days before the Lenten season in order to come up with a community Lenten penance.

Community penance is carried out under the spirit of the Lenten season. Since we are religious, it also highlights the communal character, meaning, the mode of the penance is agreed upon by every member of the community. Once agreed upon, it would be carried out daily except on Sundays.

This is on top of the individual penance that each of us chooses.

The perennial picks are the following:

  • Batch/community work (the brother assistant designates a place in the community which needs attention, and the community will concentrate its effort there).
  • Silent work/chores (the spirit behind this is to maximize every minute/hour, the idea is to be in solidarity with the poor)
  • No cold water
  • No condiments
  • No snacks
  • No dessert

Over the past years, there have also been ‘ultra creative’ community penance suggestions. I could enumerate some like "silence during games," "dawn work," and "no breakfast at all daily."

Last year, when I was a novice, we adapted the penance of the Salesians:

  1. Extra visit to the Blessed Sacrament, and
  2. No afternoon snacks

This year, our community has come up with the following resolutions

  1. 30-minute community adoration.
  2. Community work on Fridays.
  3. No meat during supper

Of course, these acts are merely external. They help us as we journey through the forty days, but there is a great danger of losing the whole point of the Lenten season if we fix our gaze only on these. For our sacrifices would become only meaningful if we offer it to the suffering Christ.